A cartoon model of the Earth that is melting. Below the floating Earth is a puddle. In this blog post, we examine how the topic of climate change is being discussed on social media.

Using Social Media to Combat Climate Change

Ahmad Munawar

Apr 16, 2021

Climate change is a serious threat and conversations on it continue to move forward as fast as the rate of environmental damage in the world. Youths have taken up their positions globally and in the past few years, carried out wide-scale demonstrations to pressure governments and authorities to act in tackling climate change.

Climate action mentions on social media and news this year

Young, powerful voices such as climate activist Greta Thunberg and Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai have led climate action campaigns across the world. Their campaigns aimed to bring about change in systems entrenched in bureaucratic practices.

This is where conversations and discussions need to take place and the youthful voices have found the perfect platform to amplify their agendas - social media. These conversations on climate change have grown exponentially within the realms of Reddit, Facebook pages and the Twitterati.

Climate action mentions on Reddit

But how do governments, authorities and politicians connect with these voices on climate action and enact innovative practices through social media? With social analytics, these conversations can give more contextual information to those who can make these decisions to effect systemic changes.

Table of Contents:

Social Conversations Driving Attitudes towards Climate Change

As an international governing body, the United Nations (UN) plays a pivotal role in moving social conversations around climate change forward. Its establishment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) resonates the purpose and aims of youths in urging governments to amend their climate action plans. 

Undoubtedly the UN has recognised the moving voices of youths in the fight against climate change. Many movements and protests fighting for climate action have been organised through social media these days. These social conversations show that many people are concerned with the rate of climate change and encourage a positive attitude towards rectifying the situation.

Pink dust on a black background

And to get that attention, notable voices are needed to amplify that idea. In its efforts to do that, the UN recently recruited K-pop international megastars BlackPink to helm the advocacy campaign for the UN Climate Change Conference. Tapping into the legions of young, adoring fans of their music, the group will be able to steer social conversations to spread awareness of the destructive effects of climate change. 

In response to that call, K-pop fans have mobilised themselves online to help those affected by environmental disasters and assist climate action efforts. Earlier this year, fans of BlackPink and BTS banded together to donate more than $100,000 to flood victims in Indonesia as well as reforestation initiatives in their home country and the Philippines. 

Even Facebook has made steps to positively shape the conversations on climate change on its platform. Recently, founder Mark Zuckerberg announced improvements to its Climate Science Information Centre to better share news on climate action and connect people within the community. He also vowed that his organisation will boost efforts to fight misinformation on climate change on Facebook, propagate credible knowledge to global communities as well as debunk climate change myths.

A melting world on a blue background

Innovative Climate Action Methods using Social Media

So how are governments and authorities utilising social media tools to do their part for climate action? We searched through our database to find the most innovative examples of climate action using social media as well as 

Nuisance flood mitigation

Twitter was used in gathering information about coastal and tidal flooding in the US. Scientists studied millions of tweets that were geo-tagged to several cities along the East and Gulf coasts. The study monitored the extent of damage caused by inconsequential floods which were usually unrecorded than those that were deadly. 

The scientists revealed that Twitter activity increased 25 per cent in these areas discussing the extent to which they were affected by the nuisance floods. They also noted that these floods would become “more frequent and severe as sea-levels rise globally.” The research also learnt that there was a discrepancy in the height of nuisance floods between what residents experienced and public records had stated.

Coastal erosion monitoring

In Australia, social media programmes by the Sunshine Coast Council and the Victorian government were set up to boost its research on coastal erosion monitoring. With the rising sea levels and stronger tidal currents, many of the country’s magnificent beaches and natural shorelines have receded at a faster rate than normal.

Harnessing imagery data from stipulated hashtags and photo-point fixtures, citizen scientists can contribute their pictures of the coastlines by uploading to Instagram or Facebook. The organisations then collate the tagged photos to measure beach changes and recovery cycles as well as understand coastal dynamics. These photos provide new insights and information for the authorities to implement measures to save the coastlines.

An alarm clock for the world

Staying Resilient through Social Media

In a study, the Australian Institute for Disaster Resilience highlights the importance of social media in recovery efforts and disaster management. By using social media, many governments and authorities helped emergency workers in issuing warnings, response and recovery operations. With faster response times from the public through social media, resources can be distributed to those affected.

The most significant method of using social media during an emergency is through mapping humanitarian rescue and relief efforts. Using an array of information retrieved from emails, SMS and social media posts, these reports can be plotted onto interactive maps. This creates a geospatial record of incidents which is also called ‘crisis mapping’. 

Hearts in raised hands

While in Indonesia, citizens have been using Facebook and Twitter to engage one another and establishing a new form of “digital humanitarianism”. Using the digital space of social media, Indonesians are using it as a form of activism and communication to gather information on disasters, relief coordination and raising awareness for the public. 

Indonesia, along with Uganda, have been part of the UN Global Pulse, an initiative studying digital data such as tweets and social media posts to improve standards of living. Started in 2009, the initiative uses data collected from social media, online news and web search records to “boost early warning, improve disaster needs assessments and humanitarian/development programme evaluations”.

With massive platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit onboard in the climate science conversation, authorities and organisations can generate new ways to incorporate social media into environmental efforts. Many forms of insights can be retrieved from social media. With a global body such as the UN backing social media analytics to boost climate action efforts, more can be done to make a difference in saving our environment.

Psst. You may also be interested in Meltwater's Media Impact Analysis on IPCC's Sixth Assessment Report.

The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), a series by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), looks at the current state of the climate, including how climate change is progressing and the role of human influence in this process. After a stark 'code red for humanity' warning was issued by IPCC, the Sixth Assessment report was highly covered by the media. We wanted to better understand the media's reaction to this. Take a look a what we found here.